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Journal Article

Choice Hygiene for “Consumer Neuroscientists”? Ethical Considerations and Proposals for Future Endeavours


Christensen,  Julia F.       
Department of Language and Literature, Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics, Max Planck Society;

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Christensen, J. F., Farahi, F., Vartanian, M., & Yazdi, S. (2022). Choice Hygiene for “Consumer Neuroscientists”? Ethical Considerations and Proposals for Future Endeavours. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 15: 612639. doi:10.3389/fnins.2021.612639.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-000A-A419-1
Is the use of psychological and neuroscientific methods for neuromarketing research always aligned with the principles of ethical research practice? Some neuromarketing endeavours have passed from informing consumers about available options, to helping to market as many products to consumers as possible. Needs are being engineered, using knowledge about the human brain to increase consumption further, regardless of individual, societal and environmental needs and capacities. In principle, the ground ethical principle of any scientist is to further individual, societal and environmental health and well-being with their work. If their findings can be used for the opposite, this must be part of the scientist’s considerations before engaging in such research and to make sure that the risks for misuse are minimised. Against this backdrop, we provide a series of real-life examples and a non-exhaustive literature review, to discuss in what way some practices in the neuromarketing domain may violate the Helsinki Declaration of Experimentation with Human Subjects. This declaration was set out to regulate biomedical research, but has since its inception been applied internationally also to behavioural and social research. We illustrate, point by point, how these ground ethical principles should be applied also to the neuromarketing domain. Indisputably, the growth in consumption is required due to current prevalent economical models. Thus, in the final part of the paper, we discuss how alternative models may be promotable to a larger public, aided by more ethical marketing endeavours, based on neuroscientific discoveries about the human brain. We propose this as a philosophical question, a point of discussion for the future, to make neuromarketing as a discipline, fit for the future, respecting the ethical implications of this research.